Third Sunday of Advent
Good News. Bishop Burbidge writes about his recent surgery: “I am pleased to report
that, upon meeting with my surgeon yesterday, I received a clear pathology report…”
Praised be Jesus Christ, and keep the Bishop in your prayers as he continues to recover.
3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. Today is “Gaudete,” or “Rejoice,” Sunday, as
we look forward to the joy of Christmas and heaven. Last week we celebrated the
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. These
feasts remind us that as this holy season of preparation and expectant joy continues we
follow the example of she who was first prepared for the birth of Jesus, and who has
always found the most joy in it, is His Blessed Mother, Mary.
Of course, in a certain sense Mary was prepared from all time for the coming of
Jesus, as God promised in the Garden of Eden that He would send “the woman,” free
from sin, who would bear a Son, also free from sin, who would crush the devil and free
us from sin. In fulfillment of that promise Mary was then conceived in her mother’s
womb without the stain of original sin, and was filled with grace all her life, so that she
never committed any actual sin herself. Thus prepared for Jesus’ birth, she was to be the
perfect Mother for the Divine Son. In imitation of Mary we should be preparing for
Christmas by ridding ourselves of sins, and accepting the grace the Lord pours out on us
in this holy season.
But besides preparing ourselves we must also help others prepare. When Mary had
heard the news of the Incarnation she “departed in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth,
and so truly bringing the tiny Baby Jesus in her womb to Elizabeth, who responded with
exuberant joy. Similarly, when the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico
in 1531 she appeared to him as a pregnant young woman, again bringing Christ to all of
Mexico, Latin America, and, in a sense, to all the “New World.” Our Advent preparation
must also include this: imitating Mary by bringing Christ to those around us. We do this
first by, as I wrote above, eliminating sin our lives, and so live in charity and justice with
our neighbors. But we must also be more pro-active: we must proclaim to all who will
hear, a clear invitation to receive the Lord who came to us first at Christmas.
There are a thousand ways we can do this: giving presents that effectively
communicate the Christian message (Bibles, Hand Missals, Rosaries, Catholic spiritual
classic books, etc.); putting up Manger scenes (crèches); praying and singing holy
Christmas songs with our families; talking about Christ and sharing our belief in and love
of Him; and especially, bringing others (our children, fallen away family members,
interested friends and co-workers) to church with us—to Mass, to Confession, to
As Advent continues let us turn to our Blessed Mother to help us to prepare in joy
for Christmas, by her example and through her intercession.
Giving. At the first Christmas, God gave Himself to us by stripping Himself of the glory
of heaven, and becoming a baby born into poverty. So I encourage you to consider
carefully what you will give to those in need this Advent, whether individuals you know
or charitable organizations that continue Jesus’ work on earth.
When you give to charitable groups, make sure the group is solidly in line with the
teaching of Christ’s Church so that your money isn’t diverted to unworthy uses. Let me
recommend a just few organizations (there are many more organizations worthy of your
help): the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic Charities of Arlington, House of Mercy,
Divine Mercy Care, Project Rachel, Gabriel Project, Mary’s Shelter (in Fredericksburg),
the Poor Clares, Angelus Academy, and St. Dominic Monastery in Linden, VA (the
wonderful cloistered Dominican sisters who pray for our parish daily). And of course, St.
Raymond’s itself is a charitable organization—special Christmas donations to the parish
are greatly appreciated.
Confessions. As I noted above, one of the best tools to help us to overcome sin is the
Sacrament of Confession. First, the confession/admission of our sins to the Church and to
God (through the priest) helps us to identify the sins we must overcome, to take personal
responsibility for them and to affirmatively reject them. Second, the grace of the
sacrament repairs the rupture sin causes between us and God, especially if there are
mortal sins, and strengthens us to resist those sins in the future. So… go to confession
this week. Monday through Friday this week we will have 3 priests hearing confessions
every evening at 6:15.
Lessons and Carols Last Sunday. We had another amazing Lessons and Carols last
Sunday, as over 400 people could attest. Wow. The choir was amazing—I just can’t get
over how a parish our size and location could have such a great choir, the best in any
parish in the Diocese, I’m sure. Thanks to Elisabeth Turco and all the musicians and
choir members. And thanks to the lectors, and to all who provided an elegant reception
afterwards, especially the volunteers from Angelus Academy and Eva Radel, who
Seniors Luncheon. The seniors also had a very special lunch last Saturday. Thanks to the
leaders and scouts from our Trail Life and American Heritage Girls troops for making
everything come together, and to Christine Gloninger and her culinary students at
Annandale High School for preparing most of the food.
Advent Series: Looking at the Nativity. I invite you all to my last session of the Advent
Series this Thursday, December 20, at 7:30pm, when I will be going through St. Luke’s
account of the Nativity. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you there.
Accused Priest. Last week a priest of the Diocese was suspended for “boundary
violations” “involving a minor and adults.” (He was never assigned or in residence here).
The Diocese gave no further details, but told the Washington Post “that the alleged
behavior…was …‘a boundary violation,’ not ‘abuse.’” Now, that seems to me a very
important distinction, although I’m not sure exactly what boundary violation could
warrant such a strong response.
I have assured you before that our Diocese will not cover up abuse: accused priests
nowadays are immediately suspended if the accusation is at least “credible.” But a
“credible accusation” does not mean he is guilty, only that they can’t yet say that he is not
guilty. So, to “be safe,” they suspend him, pending police investigation. Let me be clear:
if a priest is guilty he deserves the punishment he gets. But if he is not guilty, and later
exonerated, the process itself can be devastating on the priest, not to mention ruin his
So in mercy and justice, I ask you to pray for all involved here, including the
accusers and the accused, and those who are investigating.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles